24 Oct 2016, 46 mins ago

Government officials have agreed to publish hidden statistics in relation to EU immigrations on 26 May 2016, after pressure from Eurosceptics. These figures will reveal how many EU migrants are current working and claiming benefits in the UK. This decision came as David Cameron rejected suggestions that the EU referendum is distracting ministers after a series of blunders and lashed out at the media of over-exaggerating Tory splits. There is a concern that this publication could provide a boost in the number of people voting to back Britain leaving the EU. Currently a poll suggests that the EU referendum is on the edge with the In-campaign on 51% and the Out-campaign on 49% with less than 3 months before the vote is due to take place.

This week the Brexit campaign have claimed that immigration is putting “unsustainable” pressure on the NHS service. Historically, the method for calculating official statistics has been to count the number of migrants coming into British airports. However, the discrepancy between this number and the number of those given National Insurance numbers has led to concerns that the scale of migration is far higher than believed. According to the Office of National Statistics 904,000 EU nationals have moved to Britain over the last 5 years, however 2.25 million National Insurance numbers were issued with leaves a gap of 1.3 million.

Jonathan Portes, a former chief economist at the Cabinet Office, originally requested the data in December 2015. He suggested in a blogpost at the time, that refusing to release the information could feed “paranoia and mistrust in official statistics” such as myths about the country being “awash with millions of uncounted illegal immigrants.” However, civil servants at HMRC did not reveal how many National Insurance numbers were active, as they believed it could undermine the Prime Minister’s EU membership renegotiation.

Conversely, the Chief Executive of HMRC, Lin Homer, has now agreed to allow the statistics to be analysed, published and made available to the public. Treasury Select Committee Andrew Tyrie wrote saying: “The Committee expects you to provide the information originally requested without delay.”

These statistics will be published on 26 May 2016, four weeks before the planned EU referendum vote on 23 June 2016.